Clean Water Flows to Students
Dining halls will offer 34,000 bottles of water per day
As the city of Boston and 37 other communities enter a third day without drinkable tap water, the University has set up distribution centers in dining halls for tens of thousands of bottles of water, to be used for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) reports that the massive leak in a water pipe that caused concern about the safety of city water has been sealed, and pressure tests and water quality tests are under way. The agency expects full service to be restored within 48 hours. In the meantime, residents of the 38 cities and towns served by the MWRA are advised to boil water used for drinking, washing food, or brushing teeth.
By Saturday evening, the University had made 10,200 bottles of water available, and about half of those were picked up by students. Craig Hill, vice president for auxiliary services, says the distribution centers, which are open until 2 a.m., will have 34,000 bottles of water available per day. Hill says the University has also arranged for the delivery of several tons of ice, to be used to cool water that has been boiled. Single-serve bottled water is available in the residence hall dining rooms at West Campus, Warren Towers, Shelton, the Towers, and Myles.
Hill says drinks such as fountain soda and juices that use tap water are not available, but fruit juices from concentrate (made with water that is previously boiled) will be available starting today. Residence hall dining rooms will also provide hot beverages such as coffee and tea as more boiled water becomes available, and coffee and hot water for tea will be available in Mugar Memorial Library, as had been planned for finals week. Local Starbucks shops report that they will be closed today, and Dunkin’ Donuts and Einstein’s will not be serving coffee.
“The residence hall dining rooms are running very close to regular services,” says Hill. “All cooking and washing of produce is done with water that has been previously boiled.”
Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore says he has been impressed with the patience shown by students. “We are monitoring conditions on campus and several online communities,” says Elmore, who reported that many BU students sought their Sunday morning coffee in Cambridge, whose water was unaffected by the leak.
“We are using the feedback we get from all sources, and the students seem to be taking this in stride,” says Elmore. “Cheers to our Residence, Dining Services, and Facilities staff for quickly stepping up to respond to our students — they, like access to clean water, remind me that I take much for granted.”
David Zamojski, Residence Life director, urges students with concerns to talk to their RA or to visit their local ResLife offices. “Our goal is to support students as well as we can while they prepare for final exams,” says Zamojski. “We’re all in this together, and we are here to be helpful during this stressful time.”
University officials warn that hot plates should not be used to boil water. Because the water must be kept at a full boil for one minute, microwaving is not recommended, for safety reasons. Officials advise staff and students not to use departmental coffee machines and not to drink hot drinks from vending machines.
Peter Fiedler, vice president for administrative services, asks that all staff and students try to conserve bottled water and that staff traveling from towns with potable water bring water to work for their personal use. Fiedler reports that as of Sunday morning, there were no water-related medical calls or other problems associated with water contamination. Students with any signs of gastrointestinal distress should contact Student Health Services.
After learning of the massive water leak on Saturday, the University pulled together an incident command team, with representatives from Public Safety, Operations, Facilities, Communications, Environmental Health & Safety, Student Affairs, Residence Life, Student Housing, and Dining.
Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio says the team has been monitoring the situation and coordinating University activities intended to communicate, to assist students and staff, to provide health information, and to formulate plans for procuring adequate supplies of drinking water and arranging for orderly distribution. The team is also working with the Medical Campus and assisting with any potential impacts to ongoing research projects at both campuses. Mercurio says the incident command team will continue its work as long as the water emergency continues and will expand its membership as necessary to support students, faculty, and staff.
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